Good news for the GOP: John James to take a second run at Senate seat in Michigan

Noteworthy for three reasons. One: James is a top recruit, and the other party has been having trouble convincing its own top recruits to take the plunge on a Senate run next year. Beto O’Rourke, John Hickenlooper, and Steve Bullock decided to run for president instead, Stacey Abrams may run for president or hold out for another gubernatorial run, and Rep. Cindy Axne decided to stick with her House seat rather than challenge Joni Ernst in Iowa. The GOP may be playing its strongest possible hand in Michigan with James on the ballot. Not so for the Dems in various battleground states.

Two: James performed well in a tough national climate last November against incumbent Debbie Stabenow. On a night when Democrats were cleaning up in the House, against a three-term incumbent who’d won her last two elections by a combined 35 points, James lost by seven. Next year he’ll face incumbent Gary Peters, a first-term senator who enjoys the least national name recognition of any member of the chamber, with Trump topping the ballot in a state he won narrowly in 2016. James will be an underdog but a formidable one.

And three: If a black Republican were to succeed in knocking off a Democratic senator in the Rust Belt, he’d be a national figure overnight, an instant party star. There are implications for the GOP’s future in the outcome of this race.

James, 37, announced he filed to run “after careful consideration and thoughtful prayer” during a Thursday morning appearance on “Fox & Friends.” The announcement comes on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day operation in WWII.

“We need the courage that was exhibited to us on D-Day,” James said. “We need politicians who will go into Washington and … understand that this country is broken because career politicians continue to run on the issues without any inkling or desire to fix them. They are working on getting re-elected.”

He’s a West Point grad and an Iraq war veteran. Weirdly, although the NRSC is excited about another shot for him in Michigan, the White House is sour on the idea:

James’s decision comes in the face of opposition from the Trump campaign. In recent weeks, Trump campaign officials told the National Republican Senatorial Committee that a James Senate bid would amp up Democratic engagement, investment, and turnout in Michigan — and hence hurt the president’s prospects in the state. At one point, the reelection campaign composed a memo describing how a James Senate bid would impact Trump…

Senate GOP officials vigorously disagreed with the Trump team’s assertion, arguing that a James Senate bid would give the president the strongest possible Michigan ticket with which to campaign. The NRSC produced a memo recently outlining how James’ strength and name identification would boost GOP turnout in the state, to Trump’s benefit.

I don’t understand the White House’s logic. They’re not going to catch Democrats sleeping in Michigan again like they did in 2016 regardless of whether James runs. Trump beat Hillary there by a quarter of a percentage point and received 16 electoral votes as his reward, a number that might be decisive in 2020. It’s apt to be one of the five most hotly contested states in the country given the presidential stakes. Why wouldn’t Democrats spend every last dollar available to them to beat Trump there irrespective of who’s running for Senate? If anything, as Trump’s trade war escalates and takes an economic chunk out of the midwest, it’s the president who might spoil the state for the would-be senator rather than vice versa.

Emerson polled Michigan in March and found James trailing Peters — by a single point, 44/43, with 14 percent undecided. James is taking a risk in running again so soon insofar as a second defeat will lead people to view him as damaged goods, but the risk in his case may be smaller than it is for other young politicians in that position. For one thing, both the White House and the NRCC tried to recruit him for a House seat this time. If he falls short again against Peters, his name recognition will be high enough to leave him viable for a House run in 2022. And Trump has already expressed interest about bringing him into the cabinet, at one point considering him as a replacement for Nikki Haley at the UN. If James loses next fall, he might end up atop some federal agency in Trump’s second term. Lord knows there are enough vacancies.

Here he is this morning on Fox making things official.